If founders, chefs and other creatives are the beating heart of the restaurant industry, then franchisees are the veins delivering their ideas to all corners of the globe. Franchising is critical to the success of the industry, allowing brands to quickly scale their big ideas using other people’s capital. And whether it’s a mom-and-pop restaurant owner with one or two franchised restaurants or a seasoned veteran whose influence in the industry is well-known, franchisees — with all their individual attributes, styles, and personalities — make a huge impact on the success of a business.
In this week’s installment of Franchisee Spotlight, we’re featuring sisters Paige and Peyton Geyser who worked their way up within the Wetzel’s Pretzels franchise from store-level workers, to corporate employees, and now owners of a Wetzel’s Pretzels food truck in Orange County, Calif., which they operate with their family. We spoke about their journey, benefits of nontraditional locations, and plans for the future.
One Wetzel’s Pretzels food truck in South Orange County, Calif. and another location opening soon inside a Walmart in Southern, California.
Peyton: My story started back in 2015 when I was 16 years old. It was my first job and I worked as a team member at the Ontario Mills Wetzel’s Pretzels location in the food court. I worked there for about a year and a half until I went to college, and then during the summers of college, I worked at Wetzel’s corporate headquarters as a marketing intern for two summers I graduated in March 2020, and I worked in at a construction company and marketing for about a year and a half, and then made my way back to Wetzel’s as a marketing manager in October 2021. I’ve worked as a marketing manager since then. And then recently, we just opened up a Wetzel’s food truck in South Orange County, California.
Paige: My story is Wetzel’s 100% of the time. I started in May 2016 at Ontario Mills where I worked as a team member for about two years, and then I got promoted to an assistant manager in the summer of 2018, and then in summer of 2019, I got promoted to a first assistant manager. I worked in that position for about a year and a half until COVID hit. I was laid off for a couple of months and then came back and was promoted to work on their new street concept. I did that for a couple of months. And then I was actually promoted to a general manager at the Macy’s location in Costa Mesa, California. I'm still in that position currently, but then we did the Rose Parade, and we actually worked a couple of trucks there. So I got the opportunity to work on a franchisee’s truck, and that was when I was originally inspired to become a food truck franchisee.
How they became Wetzel’s franchisees
Peyton: It comes from our roots. But really, it all comes from like how simple the operations are. I've worked on the marketing side, and Paige has worked on the operations side, so we took both of our strengths and said let’s see what we can do.
Paige: Wetzel’s is one of those brands that just about anyone can love […] I always like to say that anyone can be happy with a pretzel in their hand, and I think that's what made me so passionate and confident in the company.
Benefits of non-traditional locations
Paige: I think starting with the food truck has helped us a lot because it gave us that first taste of franchising, and opening a food truck is a little bit of a easier entry cost for us, especially that we’re so young. We’re looking to expand, and we recently got another location out of Walmart in Southern California. That's in the building phases right now, and we should be opening sometime this summer. It is a store inside of a store format, so right after the checkout stands, people will walk right past us.
A family affair
Peyton: It's our parents and us so it’s all four of us—a full family affair!
Paige: My mom's retiring from teaching, but as for now, it's mostly my sister and I running the day-to-day operations. […]As we were growing up they always thought our jobs [at Wetzel’s] were such cool opportunities. So when we finally had the opportunity to become franchisees, we wanted them to be a part of our story as well. […] My dad has some background in finance, so he was able to help us in that department, and we all pulled together to carry our weight.
Peyton: I definitely think that we all have our own strengths, like, Paige has worked in operations since she started and I am definitely more on the marketing side. Then our dad has worked in finance and our mom was a teacher, so we all play to of our strengths to be one whole unit and move the business along. We need all of us to really drive sales and get the best pretzels out to people.
The journey to opening a second store
Paige: The Walmart locations have been around in the system for a while. […] About nine tp ten months after we had originally decided to go with the food truck, I told my family I think we should do Walmart next, because I know that it's a great opportunity. I love the idea of being an owner and operator at the same time […] so I was really, really set on wanting to have one local to me. Our family went to the Wetzel’s convention with the mindset of, ‘how can we do this? How can we make it happen in just a couple of weeks after we were actually granted the opportunity of opening the store?’
Franchising while female
Paige: I think as a woman running a food truck, it's a little challenging. Just the other day, a customer said to us, ‘your dad must have so much fun driving the truck around.’ And we're like, ‘No, we drive the truck!’ And we get some funny looks from people, […] But I think it's just showing everybody that we can do it and that we're capable.
Peyton: I think that with Walmart, that's kind of the first step to our future. That's going to be our first brick and mortar store. […] In the future, we would love to continue to expand. We’re all really striving for that right now.